It had to happen one day, and soon it will be upon us: a Mulan remake from the Disney factory is coming.
The original Mulan is not a movie I necessarily cherish. Though I still admire how the movie uses its gendered subtext (I should say text, but it’s Disney, so what do we expect?), I realised on a recent rewatch that something was missing from it. The theatricality of it is great, and it’s got an obvious standout song in ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’; but Alan Menken’s absence is felt hard, particularly for me when I thought for years that Mulan’s big song had the tune of ‘Colours of the Wind’ from Pocahontas. My hopes were dashed watching it again when ‘Reflection’, a perfectly pretty song, had none of the complexity and sweep of Menken’s best works earlier that decade.
What I’m getting at, however, is that the Mulan remake brings up complex feelings for me. As a baseline for my expectations, I find Disney’s endless back-tracking and re-making to be creatively bankrupt; even in this case, where the original, a fine, serviceable Disney movie, has no real place in my heart, I can’t really see the motivation for remaking it. And, of course, there’s the well-publicised comments made by Liu Yifei, the remake’s star, about the protests in Hong Kong where, in no ambiguous terms, she essentially said she supported police brutality.
But goddamn, the film’s trailer makes it look… shockingly competent. Look at those frames! They’re actually composed! There’s space that’s being used in non-boilerplate ways! And as far as I’m aware, the songs are not making an appearance in this version. It’s all historical drama, and no musical hoo-ha. Again, that would sound over-serious if the trailer didn’t make the movie look like it has a bit of style to its – get this – martial arts sequences. Yes, in a Disney movie, there will be genuine swordfights and martial arts, which do seriously – yes, seriously – look good.
Now, let’s be clear. I’m not saying this movie will be good. I’m only previewing the movie, not writing its press release. But if there’s a chance that a Disney remake, which we’re gonna get forced on us anyway, might actually depart from its original counterpart in a way that benefits it as a piece of *ahem* art, I could maybe possibly be convinced to perhaps go and see it. Maybe.
Perhaps its biggest selling point, and the place where I see it as really departing from the original, is the invention of a new character for the excellent Donnie Yen, who will apparently be playing a mentor to Mulan. This may be wishful thinking, but if Donnie Yen is in it and there’s a promise of martial arts choreography in the movie… well, let’s not get our hopes up. But could it be? Might this actually work?
Mulan is scheduled to be released in the UK on the 21st of August 2020. More information about the movie can be found here.
For information on other forthcoming movie releases in London, please click here.